Demystifying nonlinear search journeys in retail through behavioral economics

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Companies overlook the value of integrating behavioral economics when designing the customer experience (CX) of their branded websites.

Combining small design details, strategic page placement and memorable content to not only communicate information to potential customers, but show that you understand exactly what their needs are at this stage of their search journey, is a valuable investment for generate future revenue and deliver top-tier CX.

Emotions and feelings drive value for your business, and decisions must be made to evoke those emotions related to your product or service. They will help you better understand your customers and identify emotions that you could use in your site design and content strategies.

Understand the customer journey

The journey of customers through various touchpoints is often presented as a linear and purely rational process through the marketing funnel, with marketing tactics being employed accordingly. But an empathetic understanding of customers’ conscious and subconscious behavior is crucial to grab their attention and drive decision-making.

We can’t just think about customer behavior, we need to take time out of our day-to-day activities to really understand what’s driving that behavior. Customers don’t just jump from step to step; they may spend more time researching topics in their Awareness phase than any other, reverting to the Awareness phase if the first brands in their research do not meet their needs, or forgetting a brand in their Evaluation phase to come back to it weeks later. It’s also possible that customers won’t reach the purchase decision stage until they see your brand in a physical store.

In a world with many choices available, thousands of search results, and brands competing for attention, the buying decision process is only going to get more complicated. The “messy middle” of the journey (a space between trigger and purchase where customers move through cycles of expansive and reductive activity until they finally make a purchase decision) is what marketers marketers must master to design a successful web experience for their brand. The objective is to reassure and “push” customers by providing them with the right information, at the right micro-moment. This allows potential buyers to make a decision with confidence.

Design websites that convert

Let’s explore this from a search perspective and how the evolution of Google Chrome may make the “design journey” process even more difficult, introducing more ways for searchers to return to the review stage if the information is not readily available to them.

In August 2021, Google announced that it was testing new features in Chrome, including a way for customers to keep searching without having to hit the back button. Instead of returning to the search results, the test function activates a side panel with more search results on the left side, while continuing to browse the website.

By introducing this concept of continuous research, the “mess” increases. Offering another option that distracts from product review and eventual purchase means brands will have to work harder to keep customers on-site and focused, to avoid pushing them back into the review cycle. or choose another competitor’s product while browsing.

How can behavioral economics help? By activating the cognitive biases that influence purchasing behavior and decision-making.

According to The Google Insights teamsix biases influence buying decisions:

  • Category heuristic – short descriptions showing key information for the consumer.
  • Authority bias -highlights where we are naturally influenced by an expert or trusted source.
  • social proof – consumers tend to copy the behavior and actions of others, ie customer reviews.
  • power of now – the longer you have to wait for a product, the weaker the proposal becomes.
  • Rarity bias – the more the stock or availability decreases, the more the product becomes desirable.
  • The power of free – a free gift with a purchase can be a powerful motivator.

By considering these heuristics when designing websites and landing pages, businesses can help customers continue through the funnel and make a decision with confidence. Heuristics act as shortcuts to facilitate moments of “quick” thinking and reduce unnecessary friction in the experience. As a result, customers are more likely to convert instead of returning to search results to explore other options or brands.

How to nudge consumers down the funnel through a range of purchases

Let’s take an example to put this theory into practice from a research perspective. We decided to buy a new phone. This journey can have multiple touchpoints, from triggering the need for a new device to buying a specific model online.

Customers can go through several phases of exploration and evaluation until they develop a set of phone brands and models according to their needs, such as cheap, reliable, best value, etc Once the initial research phase is over and the choice narrowed down to a few options, that’s where the real opportunity for marketers arises. Using behavioral economics can close the deal; Designing your product landing pages with the previously mentioned six principles in mind is essential.

Do you use behavioral economics prompts to guide users through the “messy middle”?

1. Do your product landing pages clearly present key product information and USPs? Based on our previous example, this could be the phone’s technical specifications, price, customization options, financing options, warranty, delivery, etc. This is related to category heuristic.

2. Are credible authorities or sources presented, helping to reassure the client that this is indeed the right choice? While this proof may vary depending on the product or service you are offering, in our phone example it could be a video, a quality badge, an expert review, or even a a highly regarded influencer improving reliability. It’s the authority bias.

3. Are comments or opinions from former customers included? This is particularly important for high-involvement purchases, when customers are likely to carefully evaluate the purchase because there is a risk of emotional consequences if they make a mistake. Lily ‘The value of adding friction to the frictionless experience‘ to find out more, i.e. phones are expensive and therefore a high-involvement purchase. It’s the social proof bias.

4. Are we selling a limited edition product or offering a limited time offer that can be introduced online prior to a product launch? Maybe only 1,000 are available in a limited edition color before launch? Clearly showing how many devices are still available allows the scarcity bias.

5. Are there any advantages to buying the product now instead of coming back later? think about the power of now facilitates better conversion rates.

6. Do we offer an additional gift or discount? Perhaps in our example, offering a pair of headphones compatible with the device, or a free accessory, can help reassure customers of good value for money and remove the uncertainty that comes with a high-priced purchase. involvement. Needless to say, this also works for low-involvement purchases where we can add a gift at checkout if a certain amount is reached. It’s the power of free.

Not all products need to meet all six points of our checklist. Instead, companies can focus on a tailored approach to their consumer. For example, authority bias is unlikely to be a deciding factor in buying a pair of socks, but ‘power now can be much more influential. On the contrary, social proof and authority bias are more likely to impact a high consideration purchase such as a phone; while the power of now becomes less important for the decision.

So we can recognize the power of behavioral economics in markets, but also know that we need to know our consumer profile in order to select nudges for maximum impact.

Behavioral economics can be a powerful tool to help consumers along the user journey, from search to consideration and finally to conversion. However, to do this, we must consider our consumers. The challenges between brands may vary – the consideration involved in consuming a pair of socks will be poles apart from the behavior involved in consuming a phone. Understanding our consumer profile is essential to developing an appropriate brand strategy, namely answering the question “Why do our consumers consume in our market?” and how do we get them to choose us? “.

In today’s world of options, brands need to develop emotional engagement to improve their search strategy and overall digital experience. Using behavioral economics to implement nudges at every stage of the journey can bridge the gap between trigger and purchase so potential customers are less exposed to competing brands, creating lasting customer loyalty.

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